The boys’ soccer rivalry between Gulliver Prep and Ransom Everglades, which for years has been one of the most intense in South Florida, won’t be nearly the same this season.
Gulliver and Ransom have been placed in different districts this season, which means they won’t meet four times as they did last season, when Ransom beat Gulliver in a district final decided on penalty kicks. Gulliver eliminated Ransom six days later in overtime in a regional semifinal.
Gulliver also won the team’s two regular-season matchups.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Ransom coach Dave Villano said of the new districts. “It was a great rivalry with Gulliver — and it still will be.
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“I think we’re both happy we don’t have to play each other four times in a season — it was emotionally draining.”
The teams will play just once in the regular season, meeting Dec. 10 at Ransom. If both teams win their districts, they could meet again in the Class 2A regional semifinals.
Matt Lirman, a senior forward for Ransom who has competed with virtually all of Gulliver’s players in club ball, said he is disappointed with the new districts.
“When we beat them in the district final, that was one of the best wins in my life,” Lirman said. “There were so many people in the stands cheering. Winning that game was euphoric, and now we don’t get to play them as much.”
Lirman said that with just one scheduled game against Gulliver, the December matchup will be “elevated” in terms of intensity.
“[The rivalry] gets heated,” he said. “We really want to beat those guys. And since we only play once, it makes that game much more important.”
Gulliver and Ransom are two of the best programs in 2A, which some consider the most competitive class in the state. The top four teams from last season in 2A return to the class, including defending champion Jacksonville Bolles, which beat Gulliver 1-0 in the final.
In addition, Tampa Prep, which won two consecutive Class 1A state titles and six since 2005, has moved up to 2A. The same is true of Melbourne Central Catholic, a state semifinalist in 1A that is now in 2A.
“I’ve always thought that 2A is the most competitive class in the state, and that is even more true now,” said Villano, who added that other 2A teams to watch include North Broward Prep, Pine Crest and Delray American Heritage.
Here’s a look at the state’s other classes as it relates to Miami-Dade County teams:
Jay Flipse, who hasn’t served as a head coach since Sunset won a national title in 2005, is back directing the Knights.
But the Knights lost seven starters from last year’s GMAC champs, and Flipse is not optimistic of his team’s chances to win big in 2013-2014.
Instead, Flipse said three schools from his district, Varela, Ferguson and Coral Reef, “are better than every other team in Miami.”
Varela, which won state titles in 2007 and 2008, is the last Miami-Dade team to win a large-school championship. Coral Reef joined Coral Park and Coral Gables in the regional playoffs last season.
There are 11 Dade teams in 4A, and two of them — American and Westland — made last season’s regional playoffs. Westland, in fact, won the first district title in any sport in the six-year history of the school. But Belen, with a strong defense and midfield, could be the Dade team to emerge in 4A.
There are only four Dade teams in this class — Doral, Hialeah-Miami Lakes, Jackson and Norland —and none are likely to pose a threat to win a title. Doral and HML might have the best shot.
Scheck Hillel, which made a stunning run to its first state final before losing 1-0 to Tampa Prep, returns all 11 starters.
Palmer Trinity, which returns nine starters, and Miami Country Day also are challengers. There are 11 Dade teams in 1A, but Palmer coach Scott de Feu said Hillel is the team to beat.
Hillel coach Ben Magidson said being a great program is about more than one good year.
“The kids have to get hungry again, and I have to re-inspire them,” he said. “Our job is not done until we have the first state title in Hillel history.”